Orpington: Chocolate Silver Laced




The Chocolate Silver Laced Large fowl Orpington is another colour created here at Keithsorps.    



When deciding on a new colour variety to create I am extremely lucky that through the hard work of many different breeders over several decades there are lots of established colours of Orpingtons to choose from when drawing together the different ingredients needed to breed something new. These colours already exist as Orpingtons so there is no need to introduce other breeds into the mix which may have the desired traits needed but will also have many undesirable traits that would take many more years to breed out. So if the parent stock for any chosen colour breeding project already have good type and are breeding true then the genes that are needed to create a new colour are already well established in the bloodlines. It should then just be a case of choosing the correct parentage to bring together the group of genes that will create the desired colour.

Not everybody in the poultry world thinks that creating new colours in an existing breed is a good thing but luckily there are many more enthusiastic breeders that do. The vast range of beautiful colours to choose from adds to the enthusiasm for the breed and the interest for the Chocolate Silver laced Orpington has staggered me.



Some of the colours could have several different routes to creating the same final result and the Chocolate silver laced is one of these colours, but many times you are restricted to the parent stock you have available at the time. This was the case when I decided to venture on the road to breeding the first Chocolate Silver Laced Orpington.

The two basic ingredients I needed were Chocolate Orpingtons and Silver Laced orpingtons. Both these colours are relatively new colours and have not been around for long so even going back as recently as 2010 the idea of breeding a Chocolate Silver Laced Orpington would have been impossible as the basic ingredients did not exist.

I needed to bring together three main elements which were Chocolate, Silver and lacing but the initial problem was the way the individual genes worked and the way they would be inherited into each further generation. Crossing Chocolate Orpingtons and Silver Laced Orpingtons would not breed Chocolate Silver Laced Orpingtons so a four year plan had to be worked out.


The lacing is quite easy to plan, if you cross a laced chicken with a solid colour chicken the offspring will all be carrying a single copy of the lacing gene that it inherited from its one laced parent even if they are not expressing it in their plumage. When you cross these siblings together a percentage will inherit the lacing gene from each of its parents so the lacing will return, the remaining chicks from this crossing will only have inherited one lacing gene or no lacing genes. So as far as taking the lacing onto the 2nd generation I just had to select the chicks with the best lacing.

Mixing the chocolate and the Silver was harder as both these colours are sex linked which means that they are inherited differently to male and female offspring. Chocolate is sex linked recessive and Silver is sex linked dominant which basically means that by crossing the two colours together I was not going to get chocolate and silver on both the male and female chicks on the first cross.


I chose to cross a Silver Laced cockerel over a Chocolate hen which gave me in the first generation of chicks, hens that were black and carrying one copy of the lacing gene but had inherited the silver from their father. None of the hens from the first cross were needed for the next step. But it produced cockerels that had inherited one copy of the lacing gene and although black in appearance were split for chocolate so therefore carrying the chocolate gene. They had also inherited the silver from their father but this was in an impure form so the appearance was of an off silver/ yellow colour.


I selected the best of these cockerels to use and crossed these back to Silver laced Orpington hens. When bringing together different genes not all of the chicks produced will inherit the correct combination of genes to create the desired effect so lots of the chicks produced from this cross were not used in the next stage. But from this cross it was a percentage of the pullets that would be Chocolate silver Laced. They would have inherited the chocolate base colour from their split Chocolate father, both copies of the lacing gene ( one from each parent ) and be pure for silver once again from both parents.


I now have from 2013 split chocolate cockerels carrying the lacing gene but are impure for Silver but from 2014 I have pure Chocolate Silver Laced hens. By crossing the 2013 cockerels with the 2014 hens I have now finally bred Chocolate Silver Laced Orpingtons in both male and female. 


I have now selected the best of the 2015 Chocolate silver laced Orpingtons to use in my 2016 breeding pens and keenly await the arrival of the next generation. Many of the Orpington bloodlines become inbred over time and without outcrosses the birds become weaker over each generation. But now that I have bred the Chocolate Silver Laced Orpington cockerel it will be easy to introduce new blood into this colour. I could put the cockerels over Silver Laced hens which would give me good quality Silver Laced cockerels that were pure for Silver but split for Chocolate but would also give me Chocolate Silver Laced hens. Or I could put the cockerels over Chocolate Gold Laced hens which would give me Chocolate Silver Laced hens as Silver is dominant to Gold but this cross would give me impure Silver in the Chocolate Silver Laced cockerels produced so these would not be any use for future breeding.





The lacing in orpingtons is made up of a combination of three genes.The pattern gene ( Pg ), the Columbian gene ( Co ) and a black melanised gene ( MI )

The pattern gene is responsible for creating the lacing by moving the black pigment in the feather into a ring around the feather shaft while the Columbian gene you would describe as a clarity gene, it helps to restrict the black pigment from the areas you want to clear which in this case is the centre of the feather. MI intensifies the black in the outer lace which gives the feather enough black pigment to make a solid lace around the feather.




In poultry the sex of any chick is determined by the hen not the cockerel. The cockerel carries two Z chromosomes so he is ZZ. The hen carries one Z chromosome and one W chromosome so she is ZW.The cockerel must pass one of his Z chromosomes  onto his offspring so any sex linked genes that are on that chromosome such as Silver, Bantam, Barring and Chocolate will be inherited. The hen can pass either her Z or her W chromosome on to her offspring. If she passes her Z chromosome on her chicks will be male and they will inherit all the sex linked genes that are on that Z   chromosome but if she passes her W chromosome on,  her chicks will be female and they will inherit none of the sex linked genes she is carrying. Genes that are sex linked can only be carried on the male chromosome.


So a cockerel needs two copies of the gene to be chocolate but the hen only needs one.

Chocolate x Chocolate = 100% Chocolate

Black split Chocolate cockeral x Black hen = 25% Black split cockerals/ 25% Black cockerals/ 25% Black hens/ 25% Chocolate hens

Chocolate cockeral x Black hen = 50% Black split cockerals / 50% Chocolate hens 

Black cockeral x Chocolate hen = 50% Black split cockerals/ 50% Black hens

Black split Chocolate cockeral x Chocolate hen =25% Black split Chocolate cockerals/ 25% Chocolate cockerals/ 25% Black hens/ 25% Chocolate hens

The Chocolate gene was first discovered by Dr Clive Carefoot in 1994 and is the biggest colour discovery in poultry genetics of recent history. Previously other breeders had reported the production of Chocolate looking birds when breeding black poultry but these had always been discarded as sports and not bred from, But the modern understanding of the genetics of poultry has meant that colour mutations such as chocolate can be understood and through test breeding it was discovered that Chocolate is a sex linked recessive gene. Dr Clivefoot had decided for reasons unknown not to share the Chocolate gene with the rest of the poultry world but luckily one chocolate hen remained after his death. This hen was used by Grant Brereton who is a world renown poultry and genetics expert with the help of his close friend and poultry exhibitor Rob Boyd to introduce the Chocolate gene into a line of Orpington bantams. Being a sex linked recessive gene and starting with a hen it took several years to establish the colour in both the cockerels and pullets. When the Chocolate Orpington bantam was first released for sale the poultry world went mad, everybody wanted Chocolate Orpington bantams. Prices for these birds were huge and it was common to see six Chocolate Orpington bantam hatching eggs for sale at £300 and female chicks fetching £150 but it was the male chicks that could command the high prices as these were the ones everybody needed to recreate the Chocolate colour. Several times Chocolate Orpington bantam cockerels where sold reaching prices of up to £1000. It seemed there was no limit to the demand for Chocolate Orpington bantams and suddenly the market was flooded with both eggs and birds. Many of the qualities of the original strain created from Rob Boyd's exhibition Black Orpingtons had disappeared as breeders had crossed out to anything just to breed Chocolate coloured birds.

The Chocolate Orpington bantam had a very short period of extreme popularity and soon prices fell and those breeders that had jumped on the band wagon hoping to earn their fortune soon lost interest and stopped breeding. But then the race was on to transfer the Chocolate colour from the bantam Orpington into the large variety. This to my knowledge was achieved to the greatest success by Rob from Ramsleys Orpingtons who cleverly achieved the transition from bantam to large fowl within a couple of years. Ramsleys Orpingtons soon earned the reputation as the place to go if you wanted to own Large fowl Chocolate Orpingtons.